Sunday, January 10, 2010

How to be a better television host

"The best Oprah moment for me was when she came to New York for a board meeting. We all expected her to stop by the studios only briefly, but any visit was better than no visit. But then Roni told us that Oprah wanted to meet with the core staff of Pure Oxygen for a chat. I was thrilled at the thought of sitting with Oprah and a handful of other people."

"We all waited in the conference room, nearly combusting from excitement. And then, she came strolling in with that incredible aura that always surrounds her. Even though I had met her twice before, I still couldn't help but be awestruck, nervous, and thrilled."

"Oprah casually said, 'Hi, there! How's everyone doing today?' We all gave the same, goofy giggles and said we were fine."

"The purpose of the meeting was for Oprah to get a better sense of what our show was doing, and to consider with us ways to improve it. It was a chance for us to get advice from the best in the business – really, a once-in-a-lifetime chance – so I wasn't going to squander it."

"I said that there were times when I felt conflicted as a host, because of the way the producers approached a topic versus what I thought was more appropriate. I asked Oprah how a host can reconcile these two things and make the approach work."

"She replied that it's all about intention. 'You should always ask yourself, 'What is the intention of this story or interview?' What do you want to get out of it? What do you want the audience to get from it? If the right intention is there, then the story will be what it should be and will somehow make a difference, an impact.'"

"As I sat listening to Oprah, who was looking at speaking directly at me, for a moment everything sort of froze. It was surreal. Here I was getting personal advice from Oprah Winfrey on how to be a better television host. I couldn't really believe my good fortune. Her advice has always stayed with me and, to this day, I think about intention before, during, and after anything I do both on and off television. It's a great philosophy to live by, because it keeps things focused and true."

(May Lee in 'May Lee Live and in Person,' p. 84 Wiley)

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